Brandon Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock rejoined his teammates for practice Tuesday at Westman Place. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
In a sense, the real Western Hockey League season begins now.
Technically, the puck dropped on the 2013-14 season two weeks ago, but really until a torrent of players was returned to junior by their pro teams in the past week, we’ve been unable to see WHL clubs at full strength.
In the last few days, the Brandon Wheat Kings (Ryan Pulock), Edmonton Oil Kings (Curtis Lazar), Medicine Hat Tigers (Hunter Shinkaruk), Calgary Hitmen (Brady Brassart), Portland Winterhawks (Derrick Pouliot) and Vancouver Giants (Dalton Thrower) have all welcomed home key — and in some cases franchise — players from pro camps.
It’s a sudden infusion of some of the WHL’s top talent and something fans in all of those cities have been anxiously awaiting, perhaps nowhere more than here in Brandon, where Pulock is a vital part of the Wheat Kings’ plans for a turnaround this season.
Certainly, Pulock is anxious to get back at it tonight when the Wheat Kings host the Oil Kings.
"Obviously coming off a year like last year, we want to get back to the winning ways as a team," said Pulock, the captain of a Wheat Kings team that went 2-2-0-0 in his absence. "And me, personally, (the goal is to) just have a good year, keep improving, keep doing the little things so I can make the next step sooner.
"And obviously there’s a few goals that I want to achieve myself: The world juniors would obviously be one and as a team we want to be a playoff team and go a long way in the playoffs."
Of course we still might not be seeing the final product in terms of what players will be on the ice for WHL teams this season. A quartet of top defencemen — Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Griffin Reinhart of the Oil Kings, Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks — is starting the season in the show and one or more of those players could filter back to the WHL if their NHL clubs decide over the first few weeks of the season that they’re not quite ready for prime time.
PERREAUX PUMPED: Brandonite Carson Perreaux of the Prince Albert Raiders acknowledged that his stellar weekend carried just a little bit more weight because it came against the Wheat Kings.
The 6-foot-3, 194-pound forward, who turns 19 in December, had his first WHL four- point game — capping his first career hat trick into an empty net — in Friday’s 8-6 win over the visiting Wheat Kings, then scored another empty-netter in Saturday’s 4-2 Prince Albert victory.
"It might just be the fact that it’s the hometown thing, but it could be just the nights that it clicks," Perreaux told Perry Bergson of the Prince Albert Herald. "I enjoy playing them, both home and away. It’s fun."
AROUND THE WHL: C Meyer Nell of Boissevain has been called up by Red Deer and made his WHL debut on Tuesday. The Rebels will visit Brandon on Saturday night … Former Wheat Kings D Spencer Galbraith, 20, has been released by the Hitmen … Spokane Chiefs RW Mitch Holmberg is the WHL player of the week after notching five goals and five assists in three games. Holmberg entered Tuesday leading the WHL with eight goals and 14 points in four games.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 2, 2013